A Call to Arms
This post is not only about Kensington and Philadelphia but also the two crises that profoundly affected the residents of both and the entire country.
This is an early Veterans Day (Nov. 11) post.
A Call to Arms
It was late October 1962. I was working for Siefert Plumbing (Olney) as an apprentice, which means I did grunt work. On this day, I was delivering bathtubs to a construction site and wasn’t looking forward to slogging them to the third floor of the building. I set the radio to my favorite station and listened to the Shirelles’ song Soldier Boy.
The song made me think of my future. In Kensington and every other working neighborhood, there was a very good chance a kid of eighteen like me would end up drafted by the time they were twenty. That meant two years of service, probably as a foot soldier in the Army. My brother, four years older than me, had recently joined the Navy, and I thought maybe I would do the same. I thought the Air Force would also be a good choice for me.
As I contemplated my future, breaking news interrupted the song. What was said created shivers down my spine. It seems the Russians had been placing nuclear missiles in the recently communist country of Cuba. I knew that Cuba was very close and that it was an act of war. I mean, during the entire 1950s, my school classes practiced how to survive a nuclear attack from the Russians. Now, it was a distinct possibility.
U.S. military personnel from all branches increased by 331,384 in 1962. I don’t doubt that much of that was young people responding to the “call to arms.” On November 27, 1962, after taking the tests and being accepted by the Air Force, I pledged to protect our country, just as many others had.
It was common to duck and cover as training in case we were bombed by the Russians. The threat of nuclear annihilation was real.
My brother Bill Hallman.
Harry Hallman standing in front of my Air Force school in 1963.
Gold Star Mothers stand surrounded by flags after the war memorial parade in Philadlphia.
War memorial plaque at Edison High 197. They had the highest number of students killed in Vietnam in the USA.